Written by | Ray Cornelius 

I had the pleasure recently of attending a performance of the critically acclaimed one-man show, “Thurgood,” which closes this Sunday, October 16 at Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit. The powerful 120-minute long play features the talents of Geoffrey D. Williams as the iconic Supreme Court Justice—Thurgood Marshall.

to_thurgood_1_bychristopherbartelski-1024x682-1“Thurgood” premiered over 10 years ago (2006) at the Westport Country Playhouse and starred legendary film and television actor James Earl Jones. The show was later picked up and taken to Broadway with veteran actor Laurence Fishburne as its star. That show was later taped for HBO and premiered as part of the cable channel’s Black History Month programming in 2011.  Fast forward to 2016 and Theatrical Outfit is presenting the production as part of its ‘Season of Hope.’

“Over the last couple of years, Theatrical Outfit has been presenting their seasons centered around a name or theme. This 40th season is about hope and when you think about what our country is going through right now with unresolved racial tension and a significant amount of Black men being killed by law enforcement, we need as much hope as we can get,” said the production’s director Eric Little.

img_0528Marshall made national headlines during the 1950’s as the feisty young African-American lawyer whose legal victory in Brown v. Board of Education changed the trajectory of America’s school systems. The landmark case declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional and made a star out of Marshall. He would later make history again by becoming the first African-American Supreme Court Justice in 1967 and stayed in that position until 1991.

Portraying such an important figure in human history is not an easy task for any actor. But for Williams, who has been performing on stage and television since the early 90’s, this was the role of a lifetime and one that he took very seriously.

img_0533“This is something that I just had to do,” said Williams. “And hopefully though this journey and whoever comes with me on this ride, will be moved enough that it will affect their thoughts and their actions.”

Williams further explained that he prepared for the role by spending a lot of time in the library researching and meeting with some of Thurgood’s friends who were a part of his circle when he was alive. He also said that while many of the audience members may have seen the other performances featuring Jones and Fishburne, what he brings to the character is totally different and very personal.

“You know it’s something that we as actors say a lot. ‘No two actors will play the same Hamlet.’ Even though the script is the same, we have different experiences as individual human beings. So I’m not going to do the show the way Fishburne or James Earl Jones did it. I’m going to bring my personal experience with it. I am going to use my past and bring it to the process to make it my own.”

Click here to purchase tickets for the last weekend of the show!

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com and Theatrical Outfit